Problems with Smell

Frequently Asked Questions

8. Can I do anything to prevent a smell disorder from occurring?

Problems with smell that occur with aging are not preventable. However, you can protect yourself against other causes of smell loss with these steps.

  • Treat Sinus and Nasal Conditions. Swollen sinuses and nasal passages may cause total or partial loss of smell. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory drug to reduce nasal swelling from chronic sinus infections, a major cause of smell loss.
  • Prevent Upper Respiratory Infections. Colds and respiratory infections such as the flu can lead to smell disorders. Wash your hands frequently, especially during the winter months, and get a flu shot every year. For more information about the flu vaccine, visit Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
  • Avoid Allergens. Keep away from allergens such as ragweed, grasses, and pet dander that can cause seasonal allergies or nasal congestion.
  • Avoid Head Injuries. Previous surgery or trauma to the head can impair your sense of smell because the olfactory nerves may be cut, blocked, or physically damaged. Always wear seatbelts when riding in a car and a helmet when bicycling.
  • Avoid Exposure to Toxic Chemicals. Avoid contact with chemicals that might cause smell problems such as paints, insecticides, and solvents, or wear a respirator if you cannot avoid contact.
  • Review Your Medications. If you are taking medications such as antibiotics or antihistamines and notice a change in your sense of smell, talk to your doctor. You may be able to adjust or change your medicine to one that will not cause a problem with smell.
  • Don’t Smoke. It impairs the ability to identify and enjoy odors. For free help to quit smoking, visit
  • Treat Nasal Polyps If Necessary. If you have nasal polyps, having them removed may restore smell.
  • Treat Other Conditions. If you have diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, certain vitamin deficiencies, or are malnourished and you experience a loss of smell or taste, tell your doctor. In some cases, when the condition that is causing the problem with smell is treated, the sense of smell returns.